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Community Health Care Hilltop Regional Center construction still in limbo four months after groundbreaking

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Aug. 10, 2012 at 7:00 am |
August 9, 2012 4:18 pm

Even a troop of politicians apparently isn’t enough to get construction moving on a major new health care center in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood.

It’s been four months since dignitaries and officeholders ranging from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks gathered under a rain-soaked tent to break ground for Community Health Care’s Hilltop Regional Health Care Center.

But the site for the $26-million, three-story medical building at 1202 Martin Luther King Jr. Way remains a weed-choked lot with neither an excavator nor a bulldozer in sight.

CHC at groundbreaking
Community Health Care’s Hilltop Regional Health Care Center during the April 11 groundbreaking.

Hilltop Regional Health Care Center in August
The Hilltop Regional Health Care Center site four months later.

Blame the complications of the exotic financing that Community Health Care is using to get the job done, said Community Health President David Flentge.

“We have finished the architect selection and we’ve named a contractor, but we’ve still got some work to do on the details of the financing,” Flentge said this week.

The health care provider is using a combination of state and federal grants, private and foundation funding and tax credits to raise the funds needed to build the center.

The tax credits are the most complex instruments means to gather the funds. And final issues concerning those credits are still being finished, said Flentge.

Federal law allows health care facilities in certain low-income areas such as Hilltop to sell tax credits which corporations can use to reduce their income taxes. In return, the health care facilities receive money from those banks or corporations.

Flentge said the health care concern’s revised schedule calls for a construction start on Sept. 18 with building completion next summer.

The original schedule had projected completion next spring.

The center will replace an older building downtown. The new structure will offer urgent care, medical and dental services on a sliding fee scale primarily to low-income and uninsured Pierce County residents. The center expects to treat 200 to 300 patients daily.

The new building will house nearly 60 exam rooms between the general clinic and specialties clinic, 15 urgent care exam rooms, a pharmacy and laboratory, office space and classrooms for physician training.

Flentge said design work is on-going for the adjacent garage, which will house some 270 vehicles.

The later construction timetable will also allow Community to raise more funds more local donors and foundations.

The care organization still needs some $4 million to complete its fundraising effort. The project will go forward even if that fundraising campaign isn’t yet complete by September, he said.

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